HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 570:29 June 2011

New disaster fund promises early response in emergencies

Last month government established a Disaster Risk Management (DRM) Fund the purpose of which is to enable an immediate response once a state of emergency or a disaster is activated by the Prime Minister.
$264,000 has been allocated from the Reserve Trust Fund to get the DRM Fund off the ground. With a major cyclone expected every five years, government hopes to earn around $42,048 from interest after five years. Why $264,000? Well, according to government, this is what the total cost was for government in the immediate response to cyclone Pat in Aitutaki (donor funds not included).
The DRM Funds will not be able to be diverted to other priorities by government and this should give donors some comfort and confidence. There is no budget appropriated for any disaster response within each ministry.
The long term view is that the Cook Islands become self reliant and be able to generate new income streams for both disaster response and recovery.
An amendment will be required to the Disaster Risk Management Act 2007 to establish the fund, who will administer it and set the governance and operational policies of the Trust. No change will be necessary to the MFEM Act however policies will need to be established concerning the operation of the Trust.
Government failed to publicly announce the new fund. Why this happened is not fully clear. One explanation from the OPM is that none of the supporting policies had yet been developed. Its announcement came at a conference in Geneva Switzerland in May (see speech below). Despite this, the concept had been raised and agreed to at the joint Disaster Risk Management and Climate Change Workshop held in March 2011. The PM himself had raised the matter at a National DRM Council meeting in January 2011 and the concept was supported then.
What is not clear from this development are the linkages with adverse weather conditions caused by climate change and the need to mitigate the effects of adverse weather by adaptation. Small Island Developing States (SIDS) have campaigned passionately in international forums for the funds necessary to adapt to the effects of climate change caused in large part by the more wealthy industrial nations.
The question is, will there be a separate trust fund for climate change related risks?
When a disaster occurs, can the new DRM Fund be accessed if the damage has been caused by a climate change related event? With the increase in disasters, the defining line between natural disasters and disasters related to climate change, is becoming harder to distinguish.

Herald Issue 554 09 March
- Norm exposes Trio of Doom
- Briefs from PM’s media conference Tuesday
- Tourism Industry ponders $5 million draft strategy
- Norman George resigns from Cook Islands Party
- Letter of Resignation from CIP
- Norman selfish says Prime Minister

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